Packing List

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This article aims to cover the equipment required for a wide range of alpine trips. For a gear list tailored for our Winter Club Mountaineering Trips, please see Mount Whitney Winter Packing List.

Being prepared with the correct gear is one of the most crucial aspects of mountaineering and climbing. The following is a sample list of gear for a generic trip. It should be emphasized that

  • Gear should be chosen to suit the technical challenges, predicted conditions, and possible emergency conditions of the particular trip being undertaken.
  • Each climber should maintain their own packing list and update it regularly . Only you can determine if you really need those rock shoes, that second pair of underwear, those heavier glove liners, that titanium spork, etc. There is no substitute for experience and this list is only an example.

Packing List

Use these buttons to show/hide gear for various types of trip: [Note: This doesn't work exactly as it should yet - will update with a new widget! Patrick 21:15, 30 August 2010 (PDT)]

{{#widget:ShowHideClasses |text=Show Basic/Essential Gear |class=basic }} {{#widget:ShowHideClasses |text=Show gear available to rent from the club |class=rental }} (note: in addition, many of the basic camping items are available to rent from the Caltech Y)

{{#widget:ShowHideClasses |text=Show Snow Climbing Gear |class=snow }} {{#widget:ShowHideClasses |text=Show Winter Gear |class=winter }} {{#widget:ShowHideClasses |text=Show Technical Climbing Gear |class=technical }}

{{#widget:ShowHideClasses |text=Show Overnight Gear |class=overnight }} {{#widget:ShowHideClasses |text=Show Ice Climbing Gear |class=ice }} {{#widget:ShowHideClasses |text=Show Group/Communal Gear |class=group }}

{{#widget:CheckBoxButton |text=Show check boxes }} The check boxes don't do anything, they're just there for your own convenience (see Common.js and Widget:CheckBoxButton ).

Climbing Equipment

Item Type Notes
Ice Axe Snow The mountaineer's #1 tool
Ice Tools Ice Not necessary for Mt. Whitney trip
Crampons Snow, Ice type (strap-on / step-in, front point style, etc.) depends on type of climbing
Crampon Storage Snow, Ice Although they can be strapped to the outside of your pack, it's better to have a purpose-built or improvised container for your crampons. See Crampons.
Ice Screws Technical, Ice, Group Not necessary for Mt. Whitney trip
Snowshoes Snow
Rock Climbing Shoes Technical if needed: often climbing is done in mountaineering boots, approach shoes, and/or crampons. Not necessary for Mt. Whitney trip
Helmet Technical, Ice, Snow
Harness Technical, Ice, Snow
Accessory Cord Technical, Ice , Snow For prusiks. Try 6mm diameter nylon, and two strands of about 8' each, pre-tied into loops using a Double Fisherman's Knot.
Locking Carabiner Technical, Ice, Snow
Belay device Technical, Ice, Snow
Rock Protection Technical, Group Cams, chocks, nuts, runners, quickdraws, slings, etc. etc. for protecting rock (or mixed) routes. Not necessary for Mt. Whitney trip (leaders will have it)
Rope Technical, Ice, Snow, Group Dynamic rope for leading technical terrain, thinner rope for rappels, etc. If you plan to rappel, make sure you have the appropriate slings / rappel rings. Not necessary for Mt. Whitney trip (leaders will have it)
Snow Pickets Snow, Group An option if snow anchors need to be built. Not necessary for Mt. Whitney trip (leaders will have it)
Shovel Snow, Group An essential tool! Metal blades are preferred.
Avalanche Probe Snow
Avalanche Beacon Snow


Item Type Notes
Boots Basic The type of boot (trail runner, hiking boot, single or double mountaineering boot) depends on the type of trip.
Balaclava Winter or face mask, scarf, or neck gaiter. Useful for windy situations.
Long Underwear Winter Tops and bottoms.
Socks Basic At least two pairs of both liners and outer wool/synthetic socks. The weight of the outer sock(s) depends on the temperature.
Gaiters Snow
Upper Layers Basic Merino layers, fleeces, softshells, etc.
Pants Basic Society dictates that you should wear pants. Zip-off nylon pant/shorts are efficient.
Waterproof shell pants Snow For protection from wind and precipitation and also for glissading
Warm pants Winter Fleece or otherwise. Army-surplus wool pants are a cheap way to go, and will keep you warm, but are much much heavier than fleece.
Down Jacket Winter or one or more warm layers
Shell Jacket Basic Hard or soft shell (or even both)
Warm Hat Basic Or even two if it's very cold! A good hat is probably the best way to stay warm, pound for pound.
Sun Hat Basic If you burn easily, consider bringing (or improvising) a hat that covers your neck as well
Gloves/Mittens Winter Many options exist. Liners can be used under bulkier outer gloves or mittens. Remember that gloves get wet easily so extras are often a good idea.
Sunglasses Basic Especially if traveling on snow, make sure your glasses block all UV and block light from all directions, including the sides and bottom. You can modify your glasses with tape to block excess light. The Julbo Explorer is an example of the right kind of sunglasses. For long trips with harsh sun and wind, some people attach nose-protectors to their glasses (some glasses come with these), or make their own.
Goggles Snow, Winter Better coverage and wind protection than sunglasses in harsh conditions. Fogging can be an issue, so try ones with double-layers or with anti-fog coatings (or apply after-market anti-fog such as cat crap).

Large Personal Gear

Item Type Notes
Large Backpack Overnight Internal or external frame. Bring some accessory straps so you can attach bulky items to the outside of your pack.
Summit Pack Basic If also taking a large backpack, you may be able to replace the summit pack with the top of your main backpack, or your main pack itself.
Sleeping Bag Overnight Carry in a waterproof sack (a trash compactor bag works).
Sleeping Mat(s) Overnight Inflatable mats/pads are lighter and very warm. However, they can be punctured. For snow camping, strongly consider bringing a closed-cell mat as well as inflatable one. Closed-cell mats can double as insulated seats for cooking etc. in the snow and many bring a small foam mat for such a purpose.
Hiking Poles Basic optional. Snow baskets help in the snow.
Water Bottles / Pouches Basic Plan according to availability of water, but 2L is usually the minimum. Be aware that water pouches' tubes freeze easily in the winter!

Small Personal Gear

Item Type Notes
Watch Basic Might include fancy functions like an altimeter. A watch with an alarm is very important for early starts, unless you're the kind of person who naturally wakes up at 5 AM.
Snacks Basic High in carbs, low in fat and protein. Try dried fruit or Gu packets. We have some suggestions at Favorite Backpacking Meals.
Drink Mixes Basic Optional. Sweet drink mixes are a good way to increase your hydration. Gatoraid works fine, but there are better mixes like gookinaid, endurox, accelerade, etc. (check out a bike store for options). Some brands claim that a bit of protein speeds up absorption, which may be true, but the mixes with protein make cleaning out the container much harder (the protein sticks to the sides, while sugar does not). As an added bonus, mixes may lower the freezing point of water.
Sunscreen Basic Bring your own, small container with only what you'll need. Surfers will tell you how 'Children's' sunscreen works well. At high-altitude and in snowy settings, you burn much faster than on the beach, so be very cautious and use a lot of sunscreen.
Chapstick Basic Higher-SPF, less-pungent kinds like Lifeguard's Choice work well. In snowy settings, your lips will burn and puff up if you don't protect them.
Duct Tape Basic Always useful. Can be wrapped around a water bottle.
Headlamp + Extra Batteries Basic Light-weight enough (some are just tiny!) that it's almost always worth taking, even if there's only a small chance of being caught in the dark. Lithium batteries work well in the cold, and they are lighter than alkaline batteries, but they are expensive and have a lower voltage so make sure they are compatible with your device.
Camera Basic Optional. Extra batteries are a good idea. See Alpine Photography.
First Aid Kit Basic Ibuprofen, etc. On club trips, the leaders often have a big kit.
Blister kit Basic Whatever you use to prevent blisters, e.g. moleskin, sticky patches, duct tape, athletic tape, ..
Knife Basic Usually a small one (perhaps as part of a multi-tool) suffices.
Toilet Paper Overnight In some parts of the Sierras, like Mt. Whitney, you will need a "wag" bag from the Forest Service, which you use for waste.
Misc. Toiletries Overnight Toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution, etc.
Pee bottle Overnight Optional, but it can be convenient, especially for long trips. It saves you from going outside in the cold during the middle of the night. Wide-mouth bottles recommended.
Eating Kit Overnight Bowl, Spoon, Titanium Spork, etc.
Map Basic
Compass Basic
Earplugs Overnight Optional.
Cell Phone Basic Optional, and you'll only sometimes get reception. Don't depend on it!
Water Treatment Overnight Iodine tablets, steripen, pump filter, or optional if you'll be boiling water (or want to take a risk). Some people use chlorine tables. Pumps can be difficult in winter, when there is a chance they will freeze. A tiny dose of iodine kills all bugs except giardia (for giardia, use the standard dose).
GPS unit Basic Optional, and again don't depend on it!
Plastic Bags Overnight Trash bags, their heavier-duty cousins trash compactor bags, and resealable plastic bags are useful for trash, storing wet gear, and the like.
Whistle Basic Many backpacks include a whistle, but make sure it actually works!
Lighters Overnight and/or matches. Probably worth it to bring a couple.
Entertainment Overnight Especially if you might be tent-bound for long stretches, a book or other diversion can be worth the weight.

Camping Gear

Item Type Notes
Tent Group, Overnight Don't forget tie-downs and/or a snow anchoring system if needed!
Stove Group, Overnight Many stoves come with aluminum shields to help reflect lost heat and block wind.
Fuel Group, Overnight
Cooking Pot Group, Overnight
Food Overnight For inspiration, see Favorite Backpacking Meals.
Bear Canisters Group, Overnight While heavy, these provide peace of mind that you and your food will not be eaten by not only bears, but marmots, birds, and other creatures.

Other Communal Gear

Item Type Notes
Radios Group

Backcountry Ski Equipment

See Also

  • Mount Whitney Winter Packing List - what'll you'll need for our winter club trip.
  • From the old website packing list page:
    • Whitney winter mountaineering packing list, from Feb 2007 and updated in 2008 and 2009. For a large group trip up the mountaineer's route in Winter conditions.
    • Mt. Winchell, October 2006. Packing list in PDF format and in MS Word format, and in HTML format. Mt. Winchell is a bit over 13,700' and in the Palisades region in the Sierras. One night camping on the trail, one night at the trailhead. Non-technical, but some snow be present.
    • Mt. Shasta, July 2006. Packing list in PDF format. This trip was one-night (one night at trailhead), camping on snow, ascending the Whitney glacier. Required crampons and ice axe for moderate snow slopes (~30 to 35 degrees) and rope and glacier rescue gear because the glacier was heavily crevassed. Mt. Shasta is in Northern California, part of the Cascades, and a bit over 14,000'.
    • Winter trip in Sierras, 2006. This trip never happened. We were planning on a semi-technical ascent in mid-winter. Here's the packing list (PDF)
    • Two-day winter trip to High Sierras, source unknown (Feb 2006 or earlier). Here's the packing list (PDF)
  • Many gear lists at
  • Colin Haley, one of the world's top alpinist, has a gear guide (a few years old, but updated periodically) at Colin Haley's gear guide
  • The guiding service "Alpine Ascent" has a generic gear guide. This is a very short introdiction to common winter gear, not a packing list. Alpine Ascent's gear guide